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Cantilever Challenge


The cantilever challenge is a problem solving exercise, that requires students to work as a team, design and engineer a simple cantilever beam, work to a short time frame, and solve problems as the arise. All on blu-tack, ice lolly sticks, some tape and a handful of paper clips.

It's a fun use of session, although the cleanup can take a while.

The sessions introduced with a wikipedia page and some examples such as Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Fallingwater', Old Trafford and a reference to the Caketin here in Wellington. The discussion wasn't so much on the engineering details, but the advantages of using a cantilever in a design. Several pointed out that at the Caketin a design using a cantilever allows everyone to see the field without anything blocking the view.

The challenge is simple: Construct a cantilever that extends the furthest past a set point - in this case a piece of duct tape. The measurement ends when the beam touches the table.

I gave my class 5 minutes to discuss as a team, which gave me time to distribute materials, then they had 25 minutes to build.

25 minutes of serious discussion, madcap design and adjusting and readjusting to their builds, as first designs failed - and then as time began to run short - panic set in.

Much laughter also, which lends itself to a hopefully memorable experience. Some took the competition side a little far - to the extent that the shouting at the end was slightly more excessive than normal. The reflections showed thinking about how designs could be improved but a surprising amount of honesty about how teams had/had not worked well.

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